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CAF Presidential Candidate Ahmad Ahmad Visits Nigeria Amidst Tensions Over Where to Place Loyalty Votes in the Upcoming Elections

Confederation of African Football (CAF) presidential candidate, Ahmad Ahmad’s visit to Nigeria begs the question; Will Nigeria vote in its own interests or for change in African sports leadership?

Ahmad vying for the CAF presidency has led to the busiest campaign the continent has seen in a while as Issa Hayatou faces a tough opponent, who has managed to stir up support against the incumbent’s search for an eighth consecutive term.

Upon his arrival on March 2, 2017, Ahmad was received by Vice President of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Shehu Dikko and the General Secretary, Mohammed Sanusi. He also met with officials of the League Management Company (LMC) – discussing his plans for local football in Africa – followed by a meeting with Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung and Nigerian Senate President, Bukola Saraki in a closed-door meeting.

However, at the center of Nigeria’s vote is NFF President, Amadu Pinnick who was recently endorsed by the Federal Government to contest for an elective position in the CAF election but, it does not come without caution.

It is no secret that Pinnick openly embraces the idea of a new leadership under Ahmad Ahmad which he said is a “new generation” needed in CAF with the former publicly declaring his support, by calling Hayatou’s challenger “courageous” after also calling the election according to the BBC, “a defining moment for African football”.

“You have to listen to a larger audience instead of just a tiny cabal, you have to know it goes beyond you,” Pinnick said.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”I will definitely work with him if he wins but my prayer is we need a bridge builder and that person is Ahmad.”[/perfectpullquote]


Nigerian Football Federation Amaju Pinnick (R) standing beside the incumbent president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Issa Hayatou (L) during the CAF African footballer of the year awards, in Abuja on January 5, 2017. Pinnick recently declared his vote for Hayatou’s opposing candidate in the upcoming CAF elections, Ahmad Ahmad of Madagascar. (AFP)

On the contrary, Nigeria’s football officials think otherwise and are of the view that endorsed Pinnick should place his vote in the interest of the nation, come March 16 elections scheduled for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“The board, after extensive deliberation, reaffirms its earlier decision that Pinnick should contest the executive position in CAF and we collectively wish the president well in his bid,”[/perfectpullquote]

Sports Minister Dalung previously said.

He added while addressing the controversy surrounding Pinnick’s declaration, “On the issue of Nigeria’s position in the CAF election, the board also mandated the president – who is a delegate to the election – to exercise his vote in the interest of Nigeria.”

Dalung also claimed that Pinnick’s support for Ahmad Ahmad was made on personal grounds against the incumbent Hayatou.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Pinnick, as a person, has the right to support anybody based on the quality he has seen on that person. As a country, we are asking Pinnick to go to CAF and vote in the interest of Nigeria,”[/perfectpullquote]

he said.

But Ahmad made his intentions clear in his recent visit to Nigeria.

“I’m preparing for the CAF election like any other election. We want change in the Confederation,” he said in an interview with Brila FM.

“We need a reform in the finance program of CAF. We want ex-footballers to join the body.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“I’m not going after Issa Hayatou or replacing him, the goal is to change the system.”[/perfectpullquote]

Nevertheless, Dalung isn’t the only one backing the preferred idea that Nigeria should strategically position its loyalty during the elections. The Senate Committee on Sports, Obinna Ogba, on Tuesday also advised delegates to the CAF election to vote a candidate that will support Nigeria’s agenda.

Ogba’s opinion is of the view that it is all “football politics” regardless of his admiration for Ahmad to take up the mantle and give Hayatou a run for his position.

“In life, there is a limit. Typically, in politics, everyone has his chance and maybe it is time (for Hayatou to depart),” Ogba said

“It takes a man that has the courage to challenge an incumbent, so I congratulate the man, no matter the outcome of the result.

“Ahmad’s win depends on his supporters.”

He added, “Ahmad can win the president of CAF if he plays his game well and if people that are supporting him are strong enough to win him the position, why not?”

However, according to Ogba, Nigeria’s vote should be considerate to past achievements credited to Hayatou’s administration.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“We need somebody, who will relate to us and carry the country along. Before voting, we should first think of what the incumbent has done for Nigeria.[/perfectpullquote]

“Think of the years he (Hayatou) has spent and how long he has carried Nigeria since he was the acting president of FIFA what did he do?

“We must take all these things into consideration before voting,” he said.

It would seem Pinnick is isolated on the issue facing the future of African football but Ahmad’s campaign visit – with a follow-up visit to another West African country expected – might leave more clues on which side the NFF will lean.

Ahmad recently said to a gathering of African football leaders, “our football has been too strongly relying too much on its ‘official’ course since 1957 when CAF was created. It is now high time for it to free itself and to update with the current situation.”

Among his plans, if elected according to a recent interview, “I will be a president who will share the burden of the CAF finances with the presidents of the member associations.

“This body, called the Special College of Presidents, will meet twice a year and will dictate the various expenses rules and general operations of CAF.”

Including the improvement of the entire broadcasting rights allocation system by creating a special department within CAF to supervise and monitor strategy and income.



Featured photo: Ahmad Ahmad (standing) yesterday met with Nigerian sports officials while Solomon Dalung (left) addresses the meeting. (NFF)

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